Machine Needles 101

Microtex NeedlesI broke yet another of the Microtex sewing needles while making curtains this past weekend. That makes 3 broken needles in 10 days. Consequently I am not sold on these needles at all. To make matters worse, I damaged the mechanism that holds my bobbin case in place, when the tip of the needle fell below the needle plate and lodged in between the case and bobbin. I had to take the machine apart, unscrew a few parts and re-adjust the spring bar that holds the bobbin case in place, then re-clean the machine because I already had the whole thing apart. It is still not working right so I am going to have to take it in and have it serviced. I have always depended on the quality of Schmetz needles and will continue to use them, but their Microtex line get a huge thumbs down from me.

Because of this experience, and because of some of the written and verbal responses that I received from people about my Mircotex post last week I decided to do a follow up article about sewing machine needles in general.

It’s funny, sewing consumers spend hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars on state of the art sewing machines, we purchase all the latest gadgets and gizmos, sew with premium threads and top quality fabrics, but we don’t know anything about the needles that we stitch with. Some people rarely change their needles and others throw them out after making one garment or piecing 1 baby quilt. Some people use only size 14 Universal needles for every sewing project, then they wonder why their thread tension is never what it should be.

Needle are a necessity for sewing. We can get rid of our machines, we can make thread out of a variety of fibers, we can even make our own fabric, but we are not going to be able to make anything unless we have a needle. So why is it that needles are on the bottom of a sewers list of concerns? They are paramount to sewing, plain and simple.

It use to be that we had 3 machine needle choices :
* Sharp pointed needle for woven fabrics
* Ball point needle for knits
* Wedge point needles for leather and vinyls

All three of these came in various sizes to match the fabric and thread that people were sewing with. Today however we have an abundance of choices and it can really become overwhelming if we don’t know what we are looking for.

Schmetz currently has 14 different types of needles for a wide variety of sewing needs. That is a huge difference compared to the 3 that we had in the not so distant past. They also have a wonderful needle chart that you can access for free, so I am not going to go into detail here about the various types that you an purchase. I would like to discuss some other needle issues that you may not have considered.

People tell you to change your needle because as it gets dull it can cause uneven stitches or possibly snag the fabric. It can also damage your machine as I recently found out. Did you know however, that sewing with a dull needle can add wear and tear to your machine? Think of it this way.

You want to make a twin size 9 patch quilt using 2 1/2” squares, but all you have, other than your needle and thread, is a dull pair of scissors and your fabric. So you measure & cut and measure & cut over and over again, but with dull scissors it takes you twice as long and your hand has to work twice as hard. By the time you have everything cut out, your hand is fatigued.

When you sew with a dull needle or the wrong needle in your machine, it has to work harder to puncture the fabric and eventually you will stress the machine. All machines that experience stress on a regular basis will heat up and dry out faster. Machines need lubrication to work, even the computerized models have gears and such that need to be kept in well working order.

It simply does not make any sense at all to spend $1000.00 (median price) on a sewing machine and skimp on a needle that costs less than $1.00. That $1.00 needle can save you $100.00 or more in repairs or maintenance. I would rather spend $20.00 a year on sewing needles and skip the repair shop.

As for my remaining 2 Microtex needles? Well yesterday I was so angry that I wanted to throw them in the garbage, but I think I will hold onto them and use them for sewing delicate fabrics like silks. Even then, I am going to be a bit leery about them. I have even thought about writing to the Schmetz company and telling them about my experiences with Microtex. I would be very happy if they would stop recommending them for piecing quilts.

Happy Sewing~

3 thoughts on “Machine Needles 101

  1. Great post. I’ve written about needles before, too. YES your machine has to work harder when your needles are dull! Yes, it also messes with thread tension. I’ll look for the chart you linked, as I haven’t see it before. As to your Microtex adventures, please do let Schmetz know you had problems with them. You could have needles from a bad batch, and I hope as a very old company, they will want to make it right.

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  2. I would toss them or send them back to the store! I went through an experience with hand quilting needles once – I always loved the brand I used then came into a bad batch – others did at the same time – numerous people got in touch with the company complaining about them and we found out the company had changed hands and someone else was now making those needles – due to the complaints (many) they switched back to the company that had been making them and we are all happy again – I ended up tossing several vials of 50 count hand quilting needles – the price for Roxanne betweens is not expensive – about $7-8 for the 50 but I wasn’t going to bother with needles that constantly broke or bent or were dull – they are back to being good again.

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  3. Definitely let Schmetz know! I always sharpen my needles when I finish a project, if I want to use it longer. I just use the strawberry on my pin cushion…it has added life to my needles I think, but I still change them out pretty regular since Ms. Necchi is cantankerous!

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